MYSTERY AT MANATEE KEY
by Nancy Stewart
Guardian Angel Publishing
Children’s Picture Book
ages 7 to 10
Bella and Britt love to explore along the beach and at more remote places like Manatee Key as well. It is there that they discover a manatee smuggling ring.
The manatees have already been netted, so the girls must act fast! But a kidnapper snatches Bella, hustling her into their hideout. When Britt sneaks a look in the window, she discovers that the ranger is being held, too. Now it’s up to Britt. But what can a single girl do?
Mystery at Manatee Key is available at Amazon
This is the fourth book in the Bella and Britt Beach Series but can be read without a problem as a stand-alone.
Bella and Britt discover a baby manatee swimming near shore all by itself. When they fetch the rangers to help search for its mother, they discover that a ranger has gone missing. Soon, the two girls are involved not only in a mystery but discover unexpected danger.
I have a soft spot for books with lesser known animals, and these manatees don't only fit that bill but are super cute as well. The illustrations are done in water colors, and although rough in some ways, this form proves to be lovely in presenting the manatees. The colorful illustrations cover each page spread and help bring the scenes to life.
This is quite the adventurous book and holds pace the entire way through. Although it's a short picture book at only thirty some pages, the plot, vocabulary and writing level is fitting for ages seven and up. A couple of less known terms could have been defined a bit better, but the dialogue and word choice comes across very natural for the age group. The read, in general, passes over quickly, making it great for more reluctant readers. The stakes are fairly high, but the author makes sure that the characters act with responsibility. The layers of the mystery are fairly thin as the plot is kept simple and quick, and may not hold the attention of true bookworms. However, especially manatee fans will enjoy the jaunt into this world and enjoy the illustrations.
A dark animal circled slowly in the shallow water of Manatee Key. Walking closer, Bella whispered. “A baby manatee. And it has a patch of white near its snout.” Britt frowned. “But where’s the mother? It must be hungry. We should tell the ranger.”
“Yeah,” Bella said. “This one’s too young to be without her mom. Let’s go.”
The friends worked their way through the jungle-like brush back to their bicycles. Britt took the lead. “It’s really hot, but we gotta make time.”
After a twenty minute ride down dusty paths leading to the main road in their coastal town, they reached the ranger station. “It’s quiet in here today,” Bella said.
The ranger’s assistant glanced up from his reading. “Hi, girls. Can I help you?”
“We need to see the ranger and report an orphaned manatee,” Bella said.
He frowned. “She hasn’t come in today, and that’s not like her. I’ve called her phones. Nobody answered. And no one’s seen her. Have you by any chance?”
“No,” they answered at the same time.
“Well, it’s a mystery,” he said. “I won’t call the police yet. But I’m getting worried. Now, about that manatee. Can you take me to it?”
“Sure,” Britt said. “If you can bring us back to town. We rode our bikes here.” He nodded. “Of course.”
And here she is . . .
Nancy Stewart has been an elementary school teacher and a professor of education. Having lived in London for ten years, she was a consultant to the University of Cambridge. She is the author of the Bella and Britt series picture books and the authorized biography of Katrina Simpkins, a young girl whose life was forever changed by Winter, the dolphin (Guardian Angel Publishing.) Her writing of One Pelican at a Time was featured on the PBS special, GulfWatch in 2011. Nancy’s YA-LGBT novel will be published by Interlude Press autumn of 2017. She is a member of the Rate Your Story organization as a critique judge.